Hakeem JeffriesLast month, the real estate industry found itself in hot water with Brooklyn politicians, who suddenly seem very interested in the inner workings of New York property sales.
Under pressure from Assembly member Hakeem Jeffries, a Brooklyn Democrat, the Corcoran Group last month said it would adjust the neighborhood boundaries it uses in its advertising. Jeffries had complained that Corcoran had falsely stated the boundary between Brooklyn neighborhoods Crown Heights and Prospect Heights in an effort to market some Crown Heights properties as being in the more desirable Prospect Heights area.
Meanwhile, Assembly member Joan Millman announced she is fighting for more realistic property renderings. She began investigating a rendering she called “misleading,” of 360 Smith Street in Carroll Gardens, which doubled the size of the property’s garden.
Jeffries also told The Real Deal that his office is launching a “Neighborhood Integrity” campaign that combats novelty neighborhood names implemented by brokers, such as SoHa (South Harlem) and ProCro (Prospect Heights/Crown Heights). To back up his complaints, Jeffries has introduced legislation to curtail broker babble. His bill is currently pending before the Government Operations Committee of the Assembly.
The bill would prevent the renaming or redesignating of any traditionally recognized neighborhood within the city, except pursuant to a set process.
“The practice of creating neighborhood names out of thin air has gotten out of control, and too often is being used as a weapon to promote gentrification,” Jeffries said. “[The City] will not remain a world-class location unless moderate-income families are allowed to remain.”
This recent agenda marks a departure for Jeffries, who previously appeared friendly to real estate professionals. In 2008, he proposed legislation that would give struggling developers bank loans at reduced prices in exchange for renting or selling units at discounts.
Though Corcoran is the first company Jeffries has called out, other brokerages shouldn’t imagine that they’re in the clear.
Jeffries has directed his staffers to comb through listings to ensure that other culprits don’t go unpunished. He cites a law that allows the Secretary of State to sanction a real estate broker “if such licensee has been guilty of fraud or fraudulent practices.”
Aroza Sanjana of Brooklyn-based brokerage Warren Lewis Realty is not worried about Jeffries’ campaign.
“We’re purists here,” she said.
Still, she added, “people need to take these nicknames with a grain of salt. I don’t think it’s something politicians should be worrying about.”